Thursday, April 17, 2008

CARA Study of the Sacraments - Frequency of Reception of the Eucharist

Let's continue to look at the CARA study on the sacraments by focusing on the Eucharist. Catholics who had made their first Holy Communion were surveyed on the frequency of their reception of the Eucharist. Of those surveyed, 50% said that when they attend Mass they "always" receive Holy Communion. 20% responded "frequently or usually." 17% said "seldom." 13% said "never."

These results indicate that 70% of those surveyed received Holy Communion either always or frequently. This seems to correspond reasonably with the 74% who said that receiving Holy Communion at Mass was "very important." Again, it shows that the majority of Catholics consider the Eucharist to have a prominent role in their religious life. And again, it shows that there is still more work to be done, since the Eucharist should be central to every Catholic's religious life.

Yet we should note something that the question does not really account for: we are not at liberty to go to Holy Communion simply because we want to do so, although a desire to always receive Holy Communion when attending Mass is an admirable and spiritually healthy one. However, we cannot approach the Son of God in the Eucharist when our souls are in a state of mortal sin until we have approached the Son of God in sacramental confession. Therefore, there are times when being a conscientious Catholic means not receiving the Eucharist at Mass if we are conscious of being in a state of mortal sin.

Another reason for not receiving Holy Communion at Mass is because we have not observed the one-hour fast previous to receiving.

The breakdown of frequency of reception of the Eucharist as compared to frequency of Mass attendance is as follows:

For those attending Mass weekly or more: Always - 79%; Frequently or usually - 16%; Seldom - 3%; Never - 2% (95% always or frequently).

For those attending Mass less than weekly but at least monthly: Always - 66%; Frequently or usually - 24%; Seldom - 8 %; Never - 3% (90% always or frequently [note: the numbers don't add up to 100%).

For those attending Mass a few times a year or less: Always - 31%; Frequently or usually - 21%; Seldom - 26%; Never - 22% (52% always or frequently).

Again, we see that going to Mass more frequently dramatically increases one's love for Jesus in the Eucharist.

It is also important to note that missing Mass on Sundays without a legitimate reason is a mortal sin under certain conditions (since the sin itself is grave matter, and if the person has full knowledge that it is sinful and deliberately consents to missing Mass). Therefore, for those attending less than weekly who meet the conditions for mortal sin, they should be going to confession before receiving Holy Communion again. However, there is an issue of catechesis here, because most likely the majority of people who don't attend Mass each Sunday also don't believe it to be a mortal sin. (They most likely don't even consider it a venial sin.) As such, the "full knowledge" condition may not be met in such circumstances.

But if we can see that we owe God our love for the love he showed us in the sacrifice of the Son for us, and if we can believe that the Mass is the re-presentation (not the representation or the repetition) of that sacrifice, and if we can believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb of God, then we will understand why we need to be at Mass each Sunday. It's not because of rules; it's because of love.

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